Holly Springs, N.C. — Residents of a Holly Springs townhouse complex said Friday they feel lucky to be alive after an 81-year-old neighbor died Thursday from an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Edward Bartlett, of 185 Lumina Place, was found dead inside his home. Police said he apparently pulled his minivan into his attached garage late Wednesday and left the engine running overnight.
Mark Pallone, who lives in an adjoining townhouse, said he felt nauseated Thursday morning, and his daughter fainted at the bottom of the staircase. He called the gas company, and a technician quickly discovered the problem.
"He puts a meter in the house, and the levels of carbon monoxide are reading at 250 (parts per million)," Pallone said.
Health experts said a carbon monoxide level of about 200 ppm is enough to make people sick.
Pallone said the CO meter registered higher readings upstairs in his townhouse and in his garage. By that time, they decided to check his neighbor's house.
"The gas guy put the probe under the garage door in the house next door, and the numbers were just off the charts, like 4,500 (ppm)," he said.
Bartlett's car had been running long enough to run out of gas, police said.
The Pallones said Bartlett had a hearing problem, which might have led him to believe the engine was off when he parked the minivan.
Pallone and his daughter were treated at WakeMed Cary for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and were released.
Carbon monoxide is the most common type of poisoning in the U.S. Estimates suggest it kills 2,100 people every year and sickens another 10,000. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, confusion and headaches.
"The one thing I think I'm really disappointed in is that I never had carbon monoxide detectors," Pallone said, noting he bought some for his home Friday.
"I know four of the townhomes had high levels of carbon monoxide. Had circumstances been different, there could have been five people dead," he said.